Memorial Day kicks off the unofficial start of the summer and chances are, you may be spending the dog days on or in the water.
Many Long Island families have boats, so Sea Tow, a boating safety organization based in Southold, provided 10 tips to help keep your kids (and you!) safe on the water this summer.
1. Make it a rule that everyone wears life jackets. The U.S. Coast Guard requires all children younger than 13 years of age must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while a boat is moving unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin onboard.
2. Be a good role model. "Kids often complain about having to wear life jackets on a hot day, but there are a few ways you can encourage them to wear it," the organization said. Let your kids choose their own life jacket at the store. Make sure the life jacket fits the child properly, both for comfort and safety. And, be a good role model. If the kids see you wearing your life jacket, they'll be more likely to want to wear theirs.
3. Prepare ashore. Get the kids in the habit of putting on sunblock and a hat even before you get to the boat. If you have small children, put them in their life jackets in the parking lot. That way, theyre protected if they accidentally tumble off the dock into the water.
4. Clear the decks. When you climb aboard, have everyone stow their gear and any water toys away neatly, but keep the life jackets on. Be sure there are no loose lines, mops, buckets, etc. on deck that someone might trip over.
5. Give a safety lesson. The adult who is driving the boat should give the kids a safety lesson before leaving the dock. Make it a point to tell them that there can only be one captain, and its important to follow his or her orders quickly and quietly. Set a few basic rules, including no running on deck, no sitting on the side rails, foredeck, dashboard, aft sunpad or swim platform when the boat is under way. Advise them to leave "one hand for themselves and one for the boat" by using grabrails to steady themselves if the boat rocks. Instruct children not to walk around while the boat is in motion.
6. Choose a First Mate. Kids get a bigger kick out of a boat trip when you make them your First Mate. Before you leave, show them where youre going on a chart. While under way, have them keep a lookout for marker buoys. Teach them how to work the chart plotter and find your GPS coordinates.
7. Check your radios. Be sure everyone knows how to operate the boats VHF radio in case of an emergency. A good way to practice is to call Sea Tow's Automated Radio Check service. This will not only show the kids how to key the microphone and talk over the VHF, it also lets you know if the radio is in good working order. To find the Automated Radio Check VHF channel in your boating area, visit seatow.com/boating-safety/automated-radio-checks.
8. Select a 'watcher.' When you tow kids behind the boat on inflatable water toys, water skis or a wakeboard, be sure to designate an adult or teen to be the official watcher, keeping his or her eyes on the towed rider at all times. Teach the kids hand signals they can use to tell you to speed up, go slower or stop. Be sure they wear their life jackets while skiing, boarding or riding.
9. Fish safely. Teach kids to be careful with fishhooks, as well as reels and line when a fish is "on". Have them take turns so they don't cross their lines. Remember, kids have a shorter attention span; on a slow day, take a snack break or knock off early and go swimming.
10. Give the kids assigned seats. Even on the boat while docking, so that they don't accidentally block the driver's view. Make sure they know to keep their fingers and toes inside during this process.
For more information, visit boatingsafety.com.